Inspecting your Decking
Decking is a lovely addition to any home exterior, both in appearance and practicality. Not only does it add complementary dimensions to your garden spaces, but it provides the perfect setting for your morning coffees and restful evening reads. But over time, as with any well-used asset, your deck will come to need maintenance. Inspecting your decking appropriately and regularly will ensure you get the most out of your outdoor spaces in the safest possible manner, especially with the warm summer evenings looming ever closer.
Inspecting Your Decking The Right Way
There are plenty of instructions online for how to inspect your decking yourself at home, but for the typical DIY-amateur, it is better to employ a professional carpenter or home inspector to make sure inspecting your decking is done correctly. This is especially true if you are moving to a new home where you do not know the previous inspection history of the decking, you want to make sure your new decking is suitably fitted or you have not done any sort of inspection on your decking in a long period of time.
Despite this, there are key elements you can spot even with no carpentry experience that could be affecting the safety of your deck.
What To Look Out For When Inspecting Your Decking
- Rotting Wood: a common decking problem that results from ill-treated wood in construction or more often, general wear and tear from rainwater and active use. Use a cylinder device such as a screwdriver to test the quality of your wood. If you discover rot, temporarily forego the use of your decking and hire a professional to replace the contaminated wood as soon as possible.
- Flashing: checking your flashing, which should be installed over the ledger board (the wood holding your decking and main domestic building together), goes hand in hand with inspecting your decking for rot. The flashing is there to act as a wall protecting the spaces behind the deck from water tamper, which will cause rot and eventual decking collapse. If your flashing is missing or in any way damaged, it is important, not just to replace the flashing, but to inspect the wood behind it, otherwise putting new flashing over rotten wood will not fix the problem effectively.
- GuardRail safety: a crucial aspect of your decking, especially if children have regular access to the exterior of your home. Your guardrails must be sturdy so as to protect against collapse under pressure. To test their effectivity, push down on the top of your guardrail. If the rail is moveable under hand pressure, this can be a safety hazard and should be replaced. In terms of the balusters attached to your guard rails, they are required to be spaced close together, with less than a 4-inch gap between. This is an especially important precaution for inspecting your decking’s suitability for young kids who could attempt to put their heads between the rails.
- Joist Hanger Incorrect Installation: these metal brackets compile some of the most fundamental elements that keep your decking from collapsing. They must be fitted with regulation nails and not be placed where they are supporting too much weight. If either the brackets or nails are looking warped, your deck could be under too much strain and you should employ a professional inspector to do further testing. If any of the nail holes that constitute your Joist Hangers are empty, your decking has been constructed improperly and will need updating. Another sign of improper fitting to look out for when inspecting your decking is the use of screws in the place of nails. Nails are specifically needed in tandem with joist hangers due to their stronger nature. They will support the weight of your decking much more effectively than screws of any kind.
There are many aspects of your decking that need regular inspection but these are the fundamentals that you can keep an eye on yourself so that you can continue to enjoy your decking for Sunday barbeques and evening cocktails knowing that it is safe from collapse.
How Often Should I Be Inspecting My Decking?
- At a minimum, once a year. Decking collapse can cause serious injury if it occurs with people standing on board so the importance of inspecting your decking regularly and informatively cannot be underestimated.
- The age of your decking should not be a consideration in deciding how often to inspect your decking. Whether it be a year or twenty years old, a regular inspection must be completed to ensure the safety of you, your friends and family.
By following the above steps and giving a little bit of your time to inspecting your decking, you can rest assured all summer long that you and your family and friends can enjoy your decking in a safe, as well as sunny, environment! Some deck owners are under the misguided assumption that unless they have young children living in their home, or that rot is extremely visible, covering a large surface area, their decking does not need fixing or replacing. By encouraging and guiding deck owners in inspecting their decking, we hope to eradicate these myths and protect against unnecessary and potentially serious injury that can result from ill-fitted decking or the neglect of regular inspection. Make sure your decking is a safe environment for you and those around you by inspecting your decking today.